Paul Tuthill

Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston.  He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester.  Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011.  Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.

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WAMC

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts, which experienced five presidentially-declared disasters in a two-year span, including a tornado and two blizzards, is getting federal funds to help with recovery and to prepare for future disasters.

Police say a moratorium on new pawn shops in Springfield is helping control crime in western Massachusetts.

Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri is recommending the city council extend the ban on new pawn shop licenses which is set to expire at the end of June.  Barbieri said the 42 pawn shops and junk dealers currently licensed in the city is a manageable number for police to keep tabs on.

Hampshire Gazette

After almost a quarter-century as a Massachusetts state legislator, Democratic Representative Ellen Story of Amherst announced Thursday she will not seek reelection in November.

Story, who is 74, said her decision to retire is based largely on a desire to spend less time in Boston and the grind of travel between her home in Amherst and the Statehouse.  

WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Story.

wikipedia.org

The Massachusetts Education Department announced Thursday that four-year high school graduation rates had improved for the ninth year in a row.

Across the state, 87.3 percent of students who entered high school in 2011 graduated four years later, a 1.2 percent increase from last year’s rate.  

While urban school districts fell behind the state averages, Springfield school officials said trends are in the right direction. Superintendent Dan Warwick said the graduation rate has increased more than 10 points since 2012 and the drop-out rate has been cut in half.

Hampshire Gazette

One of the longest-serving members of the state legislature from western Massachusetts has announced plans to retire.  

Democratic State Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst confirmed Thursday she will not seek re-election this year after nearly a quarter century in the legislature.

" It is a long ways between Boston and Amherst," Story said in an interview. " I've decided to let someone else have a turn at this wonderful wonderful job."

Massachusetts continued to add jobs as 2015 came to a close and the state’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent last month. 

The state added 73,800 jobs in 2015, making it the strongest year for job growth since 2000, according to the Massachusetts Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  

With high employment, companies in many fields, including construction, now face a shortage of skilled workers, according to Kevin Lynn, director of the FutureWorks Career Center in Springfield.

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A number of state and federal agencies are going to begin working together in Massachusetts in an effort to fight the illegal prescribing and dispensing of opioids.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey Wednesday introduced participants in a new interagency working group who will zero-in on the “ unlawful” and “ irresponsible” prescribing of pain medication, which Healey and others say is a key factor in the alarming rise of opioid-related overdoses and deaths in Massachusetts.

Palmer Renewable Energy

Opponents and proponents of a proposed wood-burning power plant in western Massachusetts will square off later today to argue whether the project, which has been green-lighted by courts and state officials, should be subject to more regulatory review.       

The city of Springfield’s Public Health Council will hold a public hearing to listen to arguments on whether the project needs to go through a site assignment process where the local board of health would determine if the plant may result in a nuisance or pose a danger to the public health.

A moratorium on new pawn shops may remain in place in the largest city in western Massachusetts.

A two- year ban on issuing new pawn shop licenses in Springfield is set to expire this July, unless the city council votes to extend it.

Councilor Tom Ashe said the public safety committee is going to hold a series of public hearings across the city before making a recommendation on whether the moratorium should remain in effect.

WAMC

       Events are being held across western Massachusetts to honor Martin Luther King Jr.  The federal holiday commemorating the civil rights hero is Monday.

       The office of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosted an annual celebration at City Hall Friday, the date of King’s birth.  There were speeches, prayers and poems were read, and a traditional civil rights anthem was sung.

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